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Barry McGee
Untitled, 1996

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Artist name
Barry McGee
Date created
mixed media
dimensions variable
Date acquired
Collection SFMOMA
Ruth Nash Fund and Louis Vuitton N. A. purchase
© Barry McGee
Permanent URL
Artwork status
Not on view at this time.

Audio Stories

McGee on how his art is influenced by Mission District culture

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Barry McGee is known as part of the Mission School, a group of artists that emerged from San Francisco’s Mission District in the 1990s. It’s a style rooted in skateboard and surf culture, and influenced by street art. Barry McGee:



I bring in every little damn thing on the street—some stuff makes it, some doesn’t. Some things just get walked on for years and years and then, magically, it works in a frame. I like that process of a thing discarded, then picked up, and then intercepted, and then I do something on it, and then it goes into a fine collector’s home, probably. And, once again, it’s cherished.



The sad-eyed men shown in many of these frames recur in McGee’s artwork. The figures represent a kind of urban everyman, and recall characters from San Francisco’s homeless and transient populations.



The frame clusters of drawings are usually little scenarios that have developed, and that I’ve seen on the street, and then go home and just draw it or whatnot, then put into a frame. I always thought of them as similar to how a community of some sort might work. Some areas, people are getting along great, having a good time, then some have tension. So it’s loosely like a community.


SFX: Cue People Under the Stairs, “San Francisco Knights”



In some circles, McGee is better known as “Twist”, his graffiti tag since the 1980s.



Whenever I do stuff indoors, I always feel like I have to do 110 percent more stuff outdoors to keep my street credibility. It’s probably the audience I’m most worried about—the graffiti kids that are really doing stuff. And I’m always wary of how I sit in the eye of a twelve- or thirteen-year-old kid, like, what do they think of what I’ve done, how I fit in their scheme of things, or “Oh, that guy, he sold out.”

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Other Works by Barry McGee

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